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§ 208. Self-Denial and Self-Sacrifice further illustrated.—Parable of the building of the Tower.—Of the Warring King. (Luke, xiv., 28-33.)—The Sacrificial Salt. (Mark, ix., 49, 50.)—The Treasure hid in the Field.—The Pearl of Great Price. (Matt., xiii., 44-46.)

Christ then made use of various comparisons to set still more clearly before his hearers the necessity of counting the cost, of fairly contemplating the sacrifices and self-denial which his service required, before entering upon it. Those who heedlessly neglected this, and are afterward disgraced by shrinking from the sacrifices demanded of them, are compared to a man that sets about building a tower without calculating the expense, and is laughed at when his inability to finish it is manifested. Or to a king, who rashly goes to war with another of superior power. And then, again, he repeated the main thought: “None of you, that forsaketh not all that he hath, can be my disciple. Salt is good, but if the salt have lost its savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned?” The disciples of Christ, the salt of mankind, become lifeless—a mere appearance—without self-sacrifice; the salt becomes stale and worthless.569569   Cf. p. 228.

Kindred to this is the passage in Mark, ix., 49, 50, which, considered 312as an isolated saying, is quite obscure. But it probably formed part of one of Christ’s exhortations to his disciples during this latter period of his stay with them. The thought which it contains appears to me to be this. The persecutions, struggles, and sufferings of the disciples were to be as salt to preserve and freshen the Divine life in them; to make them more and more fit sacrifices to be consecrated to God. But (v. 50) no external influences could thus operate unless the element of the inner life, in truth, exists; the salt must be there, the spirit of self-sacrifice, springing from the Divine life within, before outward trials can serve to purify the heart. The disciples were, therefore, exhorted to keep it within them; and, as an aid thereto, to strengthen each other in the Divine life by fellowship of heart. “Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.”

The same thought, viz., that his followers must be prepared to sacrifice every thing to the kingdom of God as their highest good, was also illustrated by the parables of the treasure hid in the field, and the pearl of great price.

The single aim of the first parable is to show that whoever will obtain this treasure must give up all that he has in order to secure it, and must consider all other possessions valueless in comparison with this, his highest good. All the rest is the colouring of the picture to give impressiveness to this one thought. The same thought is presented, under another figure, in the parable of the costly pearl. It is probable, however, that these varying forms of illustration were used to describe the different ways by which men reach the kingdom of God; the accidental finder of the treasure in the field corresponding to those to whom the proclamation of the kingdom comes unsought and unexpected; but whom, nevertheless, it finds ready to receive it, and to sacrifice every thing when its revealed glory rouses the slumbering Divine consciousness within them. On the other hand, as the merchant seeks for precious pearls, and, after repeated search, finds one of surpassing beauty and value; so some, impelled by anxious longings, pursue the kingdom of God with restless earnestness, and find in it at last, to the joy of their hearts, that precious treasure which transcends all others, however valuable, in a lower sense, they may be.

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